Finally, at 5v5 the Flames show a dent in their armor, but Jacob Markström came ready to play and the Flames did enough to beat the Red Wings Thursday night. I’m not going to entirely blame the 5v5 play on anything specific. They had to recover from back-to-back penalty kills, a couple shoddy breakout attempts from their own zone and a genuine loss of momentum. The Wings are younger and faster than they’ve been in years past, but the Flames defended solidly, especially on the backcheck with the first forward coming back always taking the third guy on the rush and nullifying Detroit’s entire rush attack.
CF% – 52.44%, SCF% – 51.61%, HDCF% – 55.7%, xGF% – 41.37%
It’s a Team Game – The first period started slow. Sloppy play, Markström trying to pass the puck but not connecting, and the first 5 minutes the Flames were on their heels. Cue a power shift from 13-28-19 and the entire period takes on a new look and the Wings hardly get out of the neutral zone. Penalty troubles in the second caused Markström to have to play very well, including one ridiculous save (more on him in the goalie section). The third saw the team return to a better form, albeit with less risk in their game. Make sure it leaves your zone on the breakout + make sure the puck gets deep behind the Wings net. Shoutout to Tkachuk for the goal from field goal range – you can risk those icings when up by two and boy did he risk it… I’m sure he would tell you “never in doubt.”
Corsi King – Mikael Backlund (73.51 CF%) is a constant machine. They key part to this is Backlund only had 6 corsi events (all shots whether they hit, miss, or are blocked) against him all game. Lowest raw number on the team despite playing significant minutes. Matthew Tkachuk (71.50%) followed him with Blake Coleman (68.46%) right behind him. Backlund better watch out, Blake Coleman could make a case for his Mr. Consistency title this season.
Corsi Clown – Remember I just report the numbers folks I don’t make them. Andrew Mangiapane (29.76 CF%) and Dillon Dubé (30.95%) finished lower. This is where context is huge – after the penalty kill expired who was on the ice? These guys. The numbers start re-counting as soon as the man leaves the box so it’s only natural PK guys take an all-situations shot hit to the percentages. Personally, I loved Dubé’s speed tonight. Mix in the third period “be safe/smart” defensive play with a 2-goal lead and I would not read into this – at all.
Taken By Chance – There’s going to be quite a few fans of this – all situations scoring chance leader Oliver Kylington (71.32 SCF% // 56.39 HDCF%). This is a sentence to let you just enjoy that. Four players may not have had a ton of chances themselves but didn’t let a high danger chance allowed. Brett Ritchie (55.61% // 100%), Milan Lucic (50.82% // 100%), Trevor Lewis (50.37% // 100%), Sean Monahan (50.37% // 100%) – no event hockey baby, depth guys defend the middle which is not out of the realm for what we predicted they could do this year.
xGF% – This is the section I’m most interested to discuss. Not a lot of high numbers here despite leading in high danger chances – and there is a very clear answer for that. While the Red Wings had a lot of trouble getting high danger chances, they had a clear advantage in middle danger chances (most tend to forget about those). Surely if the Flames had a more dire need to score more goals in the third these would be a different story, but it’s defence first here in Calgary under Sutter. If teams fall behind to Calgary in any game this year, they aren’t going to have very much fun playing the third periods.
Game Flow –
What a rollercoaster of a game. A real rough start that was not the Red Wings doing and more on the Flames failing to execute anything to success. It ended with a steep incline as the first was dominant. You can really see the negative impacts for Calgary came directly from post-PK. Pushed back in the third until around 5-7 minutes left and then cruised home by dumping the puck in deep and constantly clearing the zone.
Game Score – Matthew Tkachuk (2.17 game, 1.53 season average), Erik Gudbranson (2.14, 2.20), and Jacob Markström (2.07, -0.32) sat 1-2-3 atop the game score podium tonight. Chris Tanev (-0.43), Rasmus Andersson (-0.29), Dillon Dubé (-0.22) finished as the lowest three Flames. Game score uses xG as a big determinant and as explained in the xG section it’s not always nice to penalty killers and/or when you play less aggressively late in the third with a lead.
Shot Heatmap –
Look at the Red Wings chances from the slot out – minuscule. Now compare to the Flames – almost exclusively attacked the slot. This was a better game for Calgary than one would think given their rough 2nd period, but they ultimately ended up on top where they belonged.
In The Crease – 32 saves at 5v5, 2.04 expected goals against, 1.000 SV% and another notch up in the career SO column. This win doesn’t happen if he’s not sharp early as the team seemed to be sleeping to start. Some questionable puck movement that gave me Mike Smith flashbacks, but no weak goals and tremendous rebound control. Oh, and there’s the save I have posted below – spectacular night from the tendy.
Today’s Specials – Power play was less than ideal on their lone opportunity, but the PK was sharp. Only had to kill two penalties but they did their job well. In fact, the special teams unit – for either side – that had the most shot attempts was the Flames penalty kill.
Player Spotlight – Johnny Gaudreau – 4 apples in two games but let’s talk about how great he’s looked. That pass to Lindholm for the goal was crazy situational awareness. Props to Lindholm for driving the net, but Gaudreau had his head up on that goal and backhand passed it through the defenders opened legs right onto Lindholm’s tape. Loving his commitment to not making terribly risky plays with the lead. Smart puck carry-ins when they’re there – which is aided by always having a linemate in Tkachuk or Lindholm to feed the puck to.
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –
1) Matthew Tkachuk
2) Mikael Backlund
3) Oliver Kylington
The Flames continue their 5-game road trip Saturday at 11 a.m. MT in Washington against the Capitals. Catch all the post-game here at FlamesNation.
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com)
(Feel free to direct any analytical questions to @Flash_33 on twitter if they arise – have a nice day!)